How the Plumber Lost the Business to Home Depot

by Joanna Pineda Posted on November 8, 2012

Plumber looking confused The dishwasher at Matrix Group died yesterday. If you’ve spent any time with me and my staff,  you know that we like to eat and the dishwasher gets a lot of use. So no dishwasher is a big deal. We called a local plumber and he arrived this afternoon.

Mr. Plumber came in, checked out the dishwasher and gave Jaime, my Director of Administration, two options: replace the broken drain or replace the dishwasher altogether. This is when I walked in. He explained the situation all over again to me and I said, “okay, so how much is it going to cost?” He said something along the lines of “a good dishwasher starts at $350 and labor will run you $150. I’ll even pick up the dishwasher at Home Depot and remove the old one.”

Here’s where Mr. Plumber should have sealed the deal but instead, he botched it. I said, “you’ve got a budget of $600, get me a nice dishwasher, pick it up, remove the old one, get a black one please. Can you come back tomorrow?” I figured we were done. I gave him a budget, it was more than what he quoted me so he had wiggle room to get me a nice dishwasher AND charge me extra for the small things that always come up, and the office would have a new dishwasher the next day.

Instead of saying, “great, I’ll be here tomorrow. I’ll pick a nice GE that my customers really like,” he said, “well, you need to go to the Home Depot website, pick the one you want, I want to be sure you like the dishwasher, what if there aren’t any black dishwashers, what kind of options do you need, yada, yada, yada.” I gave it 5 more minutes. I told him that we would be happy if the dishwasher washed dishes, was installed properly and could be here tomorrow. In the end, in frustration, I told Mr. Plumber that we would do our research and call him back.

So what happened? Jaime went to and found a nice GE dishwasher for $450. And guess what? The Home Depot price included delivery, installation and removal of the old dishwasher. So we ordered the dishwasher from Home Depot and Mr. Plumber lost the business.

What was the lesson here?

When the customer is ready to buy, for god’s sake, seal the deal. Give her the recommendation she’s looking for and don’t walk out of the office or get off the phone without an order. This is especially true when you are dealing with the decision-maker. Decision-makers are happy to make decisions, especially when they are in pain. Decision-makers in pain want YOU, Mr. Vendor, to solve their problems, not give them homework and not give them reasons to keep looking.

How about you? Did you ever try to give the business to someone and but walked away in frustration because it was just too darn hard to give them the business? Details, please.

And you better believe I’m going to be talking about Mr. Plumber with my sales and project management team tomorrow.

5 replies on “How the Plumber Lost the Business to Home Depot”

As a witness to JP giving the plumber ‘the power’ and watching the plumber flounder, it brought a few things to mind: 1. He may have been burned by this in the past and didn’t want to risk it; 2. He’s never been empowered to make the decision for a potential client based on a budget; or 3. His employer may have a policy/statement that states we have to have client sign-off on specific model, etc…blah, blah.

When I walked away from this scene, I thought that he missed out on one of the easiest jobs he could have had for the week. No haggling or negotiations – just the message “let’s get this signed, sealed and delivered.” What did I learn? When you are working with a potential client, it’s important to take queues from your client and respond accordingly.

The best part of the episode was when he told Joanna that we “shouldn’t put dirty dishes in the dishwasher”. I know it was unprofessional but I couldn’t help to laugh out loud. Silly me, I forgot that the dishwasher was just a place to store clean dishes!

I love this story it’s hilarious and so truly written. So many contractors including myself have made the mistake of giving customers options. Unfortunately it’s also true that it isn’t 1920 when you bought a vehicle from the car dealerships, telling you that car or truck you want to buy comes in 3 colors: black, black and more black. The plumber thought he was doing a good deed and in this case it didn’t go unpunished. The biggest mistake he really made was suggesting buying appliances from home depot instead of appliance retail store that has true and actual name brand appliances without some weird quirk that’s different, and very provable with plumbing fixtures that you buy from home depot. You also too made the mistake of giving him the reigns to buy with hopes of successfully getting you the right dishwasher, to which I’m sure you never gave him any thought of giving a deposit or money to make the purchase and after spending 2 hours dealing with the “genius” haha staff at home depot, bring the dishwasher back and surprise, surprise you don’t like that one cause the buttons are on the top not on the side like the one you have at home, you get upset but hey I’m sure you’ll compensate him even more for returning the dishwasher you didn’t like spend, oops i mean waste 2 more hours plus another hour or so with the return desk all because boo freakity whoo you have to do a little research on the ever so slow, INTERNET to see the one dishwasher you do like to make your experience fast and satisfactory. I also love the fact that now you will blast him all over the net because he was being an honest plumber, instead he should have ripped you off, took a deposit from your ignorant self and never returned at all. Blast Away, I guarantee you’ll make his sales increase from you. I bet he can write a blog about his experience with you too. Thanks for letting me vent this one out. Great story.

I really enjoyed the read.
It would have made more sense for Mr Plumber to just tell you to order your dishwasher online. He very likely was fully aware of the fact that Home Depot offers free delivery, installation and removal of the old dishwasher. If he would have just told you so I guess that you would not hesitate to contact him next time you truly need a plumber? He might have lost out on a job now, but the benefits to his reputation (and future earnings) would have compensated for it > potential future jobs, word of mouth, etc.

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